From garden to E.R.

The last weekend in June was not quite a normal weekend for our family.  It started out differently in a good way, with a dinner date on Friday night.

The following Saturday morning, I helped the boys get out the door to the garden as usual, then hopped on my bike to meet Rebecca, a fellow StL blogger (find her at Fiets of STyLe) who recently started bicycling for transportation.

A few weeks ago, Rebecca contacted me after she found my blog and we exchanged a few emails, leading to our Saturday morning coffee meetup (or, in my case, a muffin, since I don’t drink coffee) by bike.

This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to meet a “blog friend” in person.  Our chosen meeting point, a small, locally-owned coffee shop in Webster Groves, ended up being closed, so we biked a few blocks further to another spot, where we chatted for over an hour, covering various aspects of biking, as well as other topics, including gardening.

Afterward, we each rode off in opposite directions, and I returned home for a normal Saturday of getting stuff done around the house.

Shortly before five, as I was in the midst of dinner preparations and awaiting the gardener’s return, my MIL called to inform me that they were awaiting an ambulance for Matthew, who started experiencing severe pain (i.e., pain so bad that he could not stand up straight and looked like he might pass out) as he was preparing to head home from the garden with Gabriel.

I went into extreme practical mode, packing snacks for a long E.R. wait and overnight stuff for Gabriel, as I waited for my MIL to come and pick me up (usually our one car situation works fine, but as usual, Matthew drove that one car to the garden, leaving me a bit stuck given the location of the hospital to which he was headed — in hind sight, I should have sent her directly to the hospital and called a taxi).

By the time I arrived at the E.R., Matthew had already been there for an hour, and I walked into the room to a very pale and pain-stricken husband.  They had already performed a chest x-ray to rule out lung problems (and had also ruled out appendicitis) and were waiting on a CAT scan of the abdomen.

The minutes and hours ticked by, as two rounds of morphine did nothing to lessen his level 10 pain, and we continued to have more questions than answers.  Finally, an abdominal ultrasound revealed some abnormalities near his gallbladder and liver, which they eventually diagnosed as a blood clot in his inferior vena cava (IVC) — scary stuff, as the next stop for blood in that major vein is the heart, and then onto the lungs, where a clot would cause a pulmonary embolism (probably TMI for those who aren’t science/medical nerds like me).

Anyway, with Dilaudid finally easing the pain, and heparin working to thin his blood, they admitted Matthew to the hospital, where he spent two fun-filled nights and days, including Sunday night where, after waking him for the third time due to concerns about his “low heart rate” (in the 35bpm range) the floor staff called in the doctor who said, “Yep, a low resting heart rate is normal for a  young, healthy, active male.”  Apparently they don’t see many of those in the hospital.

Given the poor sleep and constant poking and prodding at the hospital, he was quite relieved to be discharged late Monday afternoon, despite being sent home with a daily abdominal shot (a bridge blood thinning medication until they figured out his Coumadin dosage).

Somewhat miraculously (and against my better judgement), the doctors okay-ed our planned trip to Wisconsin, which included ten-plus hours in the car (prolonged sitting, such as on road trips or flights is a risk factor for developing blood clots), provided we stop at least every two hours for walking/stretching breaks and keep physical exertion to a minimum on the trip.

Turns out the physical activity was self-limiting, as he experienced continuing fatigue and low energy throughout the next week (and it’s continuing).  We definitely did not pull off any stunts like we did in Glacier, when, not exactly ones to ease into things, we arrived, staked a campsite, and immediately headed out for a challenging fourteen-mile hike.

Fortunately, other than the continuing fatigue (and an unrelated toe sprain that re-injured the toe he hurt last October), we had no health surprises while in Wisconsin.  Very fortunate, given that we were pretty much in the boonies of northern Wisconsin, with no cell phone reception (there was an emergency land line at the resort, but no phones in the units) and miles from medical facilities.

We’re back now (more on the trip later) and still have more questions than answers in many ways.  He’s followed up with his primary care physician (he didn’t have any follow-up visits before we went on vacation — I was less-than-thrilled about traveling with an unclear picture of what was going on), who’s questioning whether or not there is/was a blood clot.  There are more tests and follow-up visits to come, and orders to keep things low-key (again, the fatigue is keeping things in check) until they know more.

Parting shot

I plan to eventually post the entire birth story here (or at least an abridged version, as it was quite the saga), but for now, you’ll have to accept bits and pieces, in no particular order.  The end is a decent place to start.

After making two big, tough decisions — transferring to the hospital and then eventually opting for a C-section — we thought the hard part was over after they moved me from recovery to a regular room.  Instead, it signaled the beginning of 3 1/2 hellish days, starting with irregular results of Gabriel’s initial blood work.

Long story short, we are fairly certain now that whoever drew the blood did not follow proper site sterilization procedures, leading to contamination of the sample.  This led to a cascade of unnecessary interventions that included antibiotics, several lumbar punctures (to test for meningitis — and guess what?  improper site sterilization for lumbar punctures can CAUSE meningitis — lovely), and Gabriel (who wants it on the record that he was perfectly healthy the entire time) spending two completely unnecessary days in the NICU so they could “observe” him and begin treatment immediately when he began his [nonexistent] decline.

After lots of pressure about starting treatment, heavy-handed “I’m the doctor so of course I know best” rhetoric, and scare tactics based on one-sided information, the pediatricians on-staff never apologized or admitted that the whole ordeal was most likely due to a mistake on their part.

Instead, on their final visit before we were discharged on Friday, the two pediatricians came into the room for one final visit.  We greeted them icily, and gave them the answers that they wanted to hear (of course the baby will always sleep in his own bed) to get them on their way ASAP.

They could have offered something to try to end things on a pleasant note, but instead, as they were about to leave, the more senior pediatrician, said, “We’re so happy we could give you a healthy baby.”

Matthew and I were floored.  You GAVE us a healthy baby?  Excuse me?  I had a healthy baby, and your messed-up procedures caused completely unnecessary concerns and procedures, like the lumbar punctures and unnecessary antibiotics, that could have damaged his health.

Though they were already on their way out of the room and we did not get to call them on it, pictures are  worth a thousand words, and I believe Gabriel put this quite eloquently.*

Gabriel's response to Doctor Don't

*Note, this picture was not staged, although it did not occur at the time of the doctor’s statement.